Leonard Nimoy's Primortals
1995 - 1997
It was an ongoing science fiction serial about aliens coming to Earth and interacting with the locals, but it wasn't the standard zap gun funnybook nonsense – no Independence Day-style property destruction opera, no superheroics in clever chrome disguise. There was some kind of conflict-generating maguffin, of course, but essentially it was a classic first contact story about groups of strangers struggling to co-exist. Having developed Omaha’s anthropomorphic cast into some of the most complex human beings in comics, breathing life into exotic aliens while telling a serious story was right up her alley.
And there was the book’s pedigree of superstar creators. These days, with TV actors and other show-biz types jumping onto the comics bandwagon, the presence of celebrities who dream up comics concepts isn’t much of a novelty; in 1994 things were different. In the case of Primortals, the big names were science fiction legend Isaac Asimov and Star Trek star Leonard Nimoy.
One of the things she’d worked hard on was the degree of the aliens’ alien-ness. Given the nature of their interaction with us regular folks, she had to keep them recognizably humanoid. Given her own need for self-respect, she also avoided standard BEMs and junky fin-headed comic book models. She’d asked the artist (I’m not sure if she knew who that would be at first) for designs that were fairly subtle, more like a distinctly different race than a different species. Imagine her surprise, then, when the fax machine beeped one day and stuff like this began to roll out:
Guys with animal heads…superheroes in clever chrome disguise…yup, the whole idiotic depressing package.
We never heard if someone had asked the artist to work up something a little more, uh, imaginative, or if he’d simply sent the office some additional designs which they’d fallen in love with. Whichever it was, somebody at Tekno had been very busy adding value to the project. Given the book’s high priority at the corporate level, I have a hard time believing that a mere editor would assume the responsibility of screwing with Nimoy’s baby to that extent without getting upper-echelon approval. (On the other hand, I also can’t see Martin Greenberg subscribing to the notion that nothing says serious science fiction like a guy who looks like a rhinoceros, so go figure.)
And they’d apparently been helping Kate out a little behind her back with the scripting, too. Though the story was more or less what she’d written, the script had been anonymously re-tailored to fit the requirements of the chrome-vested super alien, his new zoo crew and a bad guy who’d been modeled on a pterodactyl. “I don’t think I can fix this,” Kate told me – but it turned out that it was too late to do much of anything. Soon the new and dumbed-down Primortals was being presented for Nimoy’s approval.
He hated it.
So, having irreparably screwed up her work behind her back, Tekno accepted responsibility for their actions and fired her from the book.
Nimoy was apparently appeased somehow, though I can’t believe it was the brilliance of the final product that won him over. He showed up for promotional events like a pro, and hung on long enough to see what was left of his concept turned into a paperback novel and a CD-ROM game before putting the whole thing behind him and moving on with his career.
For more go to Our Brilliant Career at Tekno Pt. 1, 2, and 3. In the newspaper clip Mr. Nimoy describes his role in the scheme of things as "'father consultant' to the writers and artists" and it goes on to say that Primortals was greeted with mixed reactions at the comic book stores. One thing I noticed while reading the comics was that the artwork started going downhill with issue #6. Half the time I wouldn't have known who the human characters were if someone hadn't mentioned the name in a blurb since their appearance varied irritatingly from issue to issue or even from panel to panel. Since I'm not an avid comic book reader, I don't know if such is common or not, but reading about the troubles at Tekno, it wouldn't surprise me if it showed in the merchandize.
In this Starlog interview he details his creative input a bit more, saying that he talks every day to the people about story and character development who bring it to the page: "I haven't had a conversation directly with the writer, but what I'm getting is a daily conversation with Laurie Silvers, who is functioning as the editorial person. We exchange ideas daily on the development of the characters and story. I'm not acting as the writer, artist or editor, but I'm consulting on all the elements."
# 6 Day of Descent
The FBI locks Stewart and Jess up at a hotel with room service and cable TV for three days. Their torture ends when they're taken to the President to help prepare him for the first meeting with the alien. They're promised that the charges against them are dropped when they cooperate.
On his ship Primaster wallows in self-recrimination because his errors in judgment have caused lives. Prisar points out that he couldn't have known that Zeerus was a throwback to his ancestors predatory ways when he appointed him Governor of Archernar.
On Earth the warning about Zeerus falls on deaf ears with the political establishment. They think it's a hoax by a rival government, because the message is broadcast in Earth languages and from a satellite in orbit, to elicit an inappropriate response from the U.S. And indeed, someone is hatching a plan... A gang of mercenaries prepares to snatch the visitor from space while New York prepares for the big moment with 'NYC loves Zeerus' banners.
# 7 Homecoming
A saboteur causes lots of trouble on Primaster's ship as he goes out in a blaze of glory, firing his weapons indiscriminately in an environment not build to take such carnage. The loss of environmental controls they can take, the loss of the distortion generators that allow them passage through hyperspace they can not. The ship explodes.
In New York MacMahon almost shakes Zeerus claw, if it were not for the secret service yanking him back at the last second. Forward steps the President to take his rightful place at the photo-op of a lifetime, secure in the knowledge that it will guarantee him a second term. Jess gives Stewart hell, because she freaked when MacMahon had grabbed him by the elbow and drawn him forward with him to shake hands with the creature. All she had been able to think of at that moment had been the second message. Prof. Karagigian and SETI director Greenwald wonder if they're out of a job now that they actually have made contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence.
In space, Primaster rounds up the survivors of his ship's destruction. Survival becomes a most acute concern in New York, too, as the mercenaries drive their cars into the crowd and open fire on Zeerus. He delights at this, with humanity proving itself even more violent and unpredictable than he could have hoped for.
# 8 Armed Response
Zeerus has some fun doing away with his attackers and after a moment of shock the crowd explodes in cheers. They think Zeerus is a hero for saving them and the President single handedly from terrorists. The President is not amused by this turn of events. Primaster and the survivors are still trapped in hyperspace. Prisar suggests he open a rift to normal space using his private distortion generator build into his suit. Primaster hesitates, because the plan has several drawbacks. They have no way of knowing where they would exit, most likely the process would separate them, it would cost him a large amount of his remaining power, and might leave them without a means to make it to Earth. There, Karagigian and Greenwald decide they don't buy the official statement about the second message being a hoax and launch an independent investigation.
Meanwhile, MacMahon, Jess, and Stewart arrive at MacMahon's mansion. Dissatisfied and upset, Jess questions Stewart's involvement in the case, it's impact on their relationship, and MacMahon's role in it.
Far, far away, Primaster and Prisar have worked out a way to tie the survivors together. But to open a conduit to normal space means he has to discontinue the energy bubble which shielded them from the deathly effects of hyperspace. Once arriving on the other side, Primaster finds himself all alone.
# 9 Alien Attacked by Terrorists
Initial reactions to Zeerus worldwide range from indifference because it's all happening far away, to concern from religious institutions, to stereotypical accusations out of the Middle East. Because of the hype, New York has come to a halt as people press up to the United Nations building in hope of catching a glimpse at the alien. In the meantime Primaster has Prisar, Quickwing, Commander Narab and Kafka located. Using up the remaining power in his suit's batteries, he takes them to Earth in a matter of hours. Left powerless, he now entirely depends on their protection.
Prof. Karagigian is convinced that the warning is genuine as he arrives at the home of MacMahon. But too much hangs in the balance now for the U.S. government to backpedal on the hoax angle that is still disseminated through the media. Gains are expected from the study of the alien technology that would give U.S. corporations a renewed edge over their worldwide competitors and put the government in a superior position over other countries. With the prospect of more aliens coming to Earth as stated in the second message, Jess asks Stewart to choose between her and them later that night.
At the United Nations Zeerus is debriefed. The picture he paints of himself is that of a freedom fighter, rebelling against the oppressive regime of the Majae that for too long has dominated his people. Primaster and company, meanwhile, crash land close to a diner in the middle of nowhere, specifically Wells in Arizona, where people have been minding their own business.
# 10 Official Denial
Primaster faints after getting them safe to Earth and his crew thinks it best not to attract any more attention than they already have and hike into the dessert. Jess, who split up with Stewart because her wealthy family thinks he's not suitable for her, has second thoughts. She reflects that she's been acting out her mother's tenets when she made a scene over being neglected in favor of world changing events and heads back to him over her mother screeching that she's going to regret her disobedience.
At the U.N. Zeerus gets English lessons and is educated about asking for political asylum. In the eyes of his interpreter the linguistic implications of his pursuer being called Primaster serve to make his claims even more credible, as it suggests a master/slave dynamic. Right now, though, Primaster doesn't feel on top of things. His group came down near a top secret, top sensitive military installation. From the point of the military they went into hiding immediately thereafter and became highly suspect. The President orders that the base be protected by any means from sabotage and alien invasion.
Despite the government trying to hush it up, MacMahon gets news of another group of aliens having landed and this time he won't be deterred from getting that handshake under his belt.